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NASCAR WCUP: Ward Burton Scores Well-Deserved Victory at Darlington

20 March 2000

By David Treffer
Contributing Editor, The Auto Channel
DARLINGTON, SC: Who ever said that "Nice Guys Finish Last" never met Ward Burton. The driver of the Bill Davis Racing #22 Caterpillar Pontiac drove to a richly deserved victory today at Darlington International Speedway. Burton, starting from the inside of row number two, showed the rest of the field that the Bill Davis Racing team is ready to make that last large leap into the rarefied air of week-in and week-out contending for the title.

Burton scored his second-career Winston Cup victory at a place that is known for chewing up racecars. The nickname of the Darlington track "The Lady in Black" is a begrudging term of endearment. The egg-shaped oval is never beaten just survived.

The last time that Burton visited Victory Lane was in October 1995 at Rockingham. The drought of 132 starts without a victory was starting to gnaw at Burton on the inside. During this years Daytona 500 Speedweeks, Burton was asked to assess the 1999 season. "Hey, Burton replied, with a sly grin on his face, in his Virginia tidewater drawl, 1999 was pretty good, but it would have been even better if my brother hadnt been racin." Wards brother Jeff won three races in 1999 with Ward coming in second. With the victory-drought ended at a devilish track like Darlington has to give the Bill Davis Racing team a much needed boost.

The race was run under changeable skies which no doubt affected the set-ups of every team. All day long the teams were adjusting stagger as well as wedge to try and find that right combination. Sunny skies, cloudy skies seemed to be the statement of the day. Aside from Burtons team, the #88 Ford Quality Care team with current Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett chased the right set-up all day. Crew chief Todd Parrot finally found it after their last pit-stop. Jarrett drove to great second place finish 1.420 seconds behind Burton. Try as he might to close the gap with Burton, Jarrett never really challenged for the lead during the last 40 laps.

Third place belonged to last weeks winner Dale Earnhardt. With four strong showings in a row, Earnhardt, the 7-time Winston Cup Champion, seems to have turned back the clock. During the last 20 laps of todays race his car was either on top of the speed charts or a close second. His consistent top ten finishes (except for Daytona) is how Winston Cup Championships are earned. Coming home in fourth place was Tony Stewart in the #20 Joe Gibbs Racing Home Depot Pontiac. Stewart climbed his way from ninth place with a very good showing with great pit stops and savvy driving. The top five was rounded out by the other Burton-Jeff Burton. Maybe Jeff gave Ward some brotherly advice during the off-season. Whatever the reason for his success, Burtons team has to be considered a contender.

So is the Bill Davis Racing Team ready to challenge for a Winston Cup? The answer will be given in the weeks ahead but certainly they have garnered

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